Donor Conception and Surrogacy

Love makes a family – nature, nurture and donor conception

Jessie Day & Cryos International  |   1 Dec 2022


Nature vs nurture. It’s the question that pops up time and again, at every stage of the parenting journey. Which has the greater impact on a child’s development, personal traits and trajectory? Is it nature, or nurture? Biology, or environment? Genetics, or family unit? 

For Cryos International, it’s both – but most of all, it’s love. Love, in their experience – of which they have over 30 years, and as the world’s largest sperm and egg bank – is what makes a family. 

Nature vs nurture is on the minds of many, many intended parents working with Cryos to build their families. Here’s their take on nature, nurture, love – and why love is statistically proven to be the defining factor in a child’s growing up, and wellbeing. Plus, the perspective of some truly amazing donor-conceived people, in conversation with Cryos.

Let’s hear more from Cryos International. 

Nature & nurture, but most of all: love – why all three matter, for families with Cryos

The nature vs nurture question crosses almost every parent’s mind, from time to time, and right the way through the parenting journey. From pre-conception to early childhood, to teenage years and beyond. Where do certain characteristics, habits, interests and outcomes come from? Is it us, or is it them? Is there something we could have tweaked, as parents, or is it all just part of life’s messy, amazing journey?

But parents of donor-conceived children are, understandably, particularly tuned into the question of nature vs nurture. We can provide so much information about your family’s sperm or egg donor – from physical appearance, ethnicity and genetic information to personality traits, career and educational background. We can show parents a photo. We can even include an audio interview with your donor, and a handwritten letter. 

Amazing access, and incredible detail. But how much of it guarantees anything, really, about your child and their future? In reality, a limited amount. Because so much beyond just genetics goes into making a family.

love makes a family

Nature vs nurture defined, and what’s missing?

Let’s quickly define what we mean by both nature and nurture. 

Nature is about genetics

Broadly-speaking, when we talk about ‘nature’ we’re covering the genes we inherit biologically, and other hereditary factors. These can include eye colour, for example, or a genetic condition. 

Nurture is about our environment

From upbringing to the culture and community that surrounds us, the way we’re nurtured plays a strong role in our development. Nurtured characteristics often include certain behaviours, values and habits we take into our childhood and beyond. 

Cryos International have been part of thousands of family-building journeys for over 30 years. And what we see within our community, time and time again, is that genes and environment (so nature and nurture) play a role in our child’s development. It doesn’t have to be – it can’t be – one or the other. A child might be more likely to be red-haired and have blue eyes. But the environment they’re being raised in combines with genes to make them the person that they are. 

Here are three key thoughts from the Cryos, intended parent, donor-conceived person, and donor community, on what makes a family.

1. It doesn’t have to be one or the other

Nature and nurture play an integrative role in how we develop. They combine together to make us who we are. And acknowledging this allows us to see our child as an individual – not just as the product of genetics, or mostly defined by their upbringing. They are a blend of both, and respond to all of these influencing factors in different ways. 

2. Support is crucial, for donor-conceived families

We’re seeing that the most successful family-building journeys are the ones strengthened by expert support and a solid community of family, friends and shared stories, and experience. At Cryos, we ensure that all intended parents (IPs) start the donor-conception process with support close at hand. 

From nature vs nurture questions to beautiful books for donor-conceived children – telling the story of their unique and amazing origins – talk, communication and shared experience is so important, on a donor conception journey. Whether it’s a podcast or online discussion session you’re looking for – or our brilliant Facebook support group, Family Dreams – ensure your support network is in place to help you make sense of, and navigate, your questions, big or small. 

We recently put together a fantastic library of support and resources for IPs with TRB – take a look and let us know what you’d like to see more of

3. Love is a child’s top priority

Love is crucial, and very much an aspect of our nurturing, as parents. It may sound vague, or hard to quantify – and who really wants to quantify love anyway – but studies show that love is the defining factor in a child’s perception of their own wellbeing, and what ‘makes a happy life’. 

A study published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2020 sheds valuable light on the influence of love, using nationwide focus groups. The key findings demonstrated that: 

  • feeling loved, and having ‘positive, supportive relationships, particularly with friends and family, including having someone to talk to and rely on’ is a top priority for children to have what they judge to be a happy life 
  • safety is a crucial part of a child’s happiness, from feelings of safety in their homes, to their learning environments and communities (offline and online) 

And this is the bottom line, for so many of the Cryos International community. We can’t put it better than Anna – donor-conceived children are very, very much planned for, wanted and loved by their parents. It is love which makes a family, in this sense, and we’re incredibly proud to be a part of so many unique and beautiful journeys. 

Hop over to Insta for expert perspective and first-hand, real-life stories on The Ribbon Box and Cryos International.

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